The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
Today, the Department of Justice, U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Secret
Service (USSS), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced the results of a year-long,
coordinated national operation that used the first nationwide undercover action
to target vendors of illicit goods on the Darknet. Special Agents of the HSI
New York Field Division, in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for
the Southern District of New York, posed as a money launderer on Darknet market
sites, exchanging U.S. currency for virtual currency.
Through this operation, HSI New York was able
to identify numerous vendors of illicit goods, leading to the opening of more
than 90 active cases around the country. The Money Laundering and Asset
Recovery Section (MLARS) of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division,
working with more than 40 U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country,
coordinated the nationwide investigation of over 65 targets, that lead to the
arrest and impending prosecution of more than 35 Darknet vendors.
These results were announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod
J. Rosenstein, Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice
Department’s Criminal Division, Executive Associate Director Derek Benner of
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations
(HSI), Special Agent-in-Charge Angel M. Melendez of HSI New York Field Office,
Inspector in Charge Peter R. Rendina of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service
(USPIS) New York Division, Assistant Director Kenneth Jenkins of the U.S.
Secret Service (USSS) Office of Investigations, and Special Agent in Charge
James J. Hunt of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New York
“Criminals who think that they are safe on the Darknet are
wrong,” said Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein (seen in the below photo).
“We can expose their networks, and we are
determined to bring them to justice. Today, we arrested more than 35 alleged
We seized their weapons,
their drugs, and $23.6 million of their ill-gotten gains. This nationwide
enforcement effort will reduce the supply of deadly drugs like fentanyl that
are killing an unprecedented number of Americans.
I want to thank our federal prosecutors, and
the dedicated federal agents with DEA, Homeland Security Investigations, the
Postal Inspection Service, and the Secret Service for their outstanding work.”
“The Darknet is ever-changing and increasingly more
intricate, making locating and targeting those selling illicit items on this
platform more complicated. But in this
case, HSI special agents were able to walk amongst those in the cyber
underworld to find those vendors who sell highly addictive drugs for a profit,”
said HSI Executive Associate Director Benner.
“The veil has been lifted. HSI has infiltrated the Darknet, and together
with its law enforcement partners nationwide, it has proven, once again, that
every criminal is within arm’s reach of the law.”
“Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners will
spare no resource or expense to shine a light on the sale and distribution of
illicit and dangerous items on the Darknet, that serve to destroy the lives of
many through addiction and despair,” said Inspector in Charge Rendina.
“Today’s announcement of our law enforcement
partnership and operation sends a strong message to those who choose this
illegal path, we are watching and will bring you to justice for your crimes
against the American public.”
“The Secret Service is proud to work with our law
enforcement partners to help combat one of the largest threats to the U.S.
financial infrastructure, money laundering with virtual currency,” said U.S.
Secret Service Assistant Director Jenkins.
“The Secret Service continues to adapt along with these cyber criminals
to maintain our level of success in stopping them.”
“At this crucial time of unprecedented drug related deaths,
one of the greatest threats we face is cyber drug trafficking,” said DEA
Special Agent in Charge Hunt.
the Darknet invites criminals into our homes, and provides unlimited access to
illegal commerce, law enforcement is taking steps to identify and arrest those
involved. I applaud all the agencies who participated in this groundbreaking
The extensive operation, which culminated in four weeks of
more than 100 enforcement actions around the country, resulted in the
Federal arrests of more than 35 Darknet vendors who engaged
in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods;
Execution of 70 search warrants, resulting in the seizure of
massive amounts of illegal narcotics, including 333 bottles of liquid synthetic
opioids, over 100,000 tramadol pills, 100 grams of fentanyl, more than 24
kilograms of Xanax, and additional seizures of Oxycodone, MDMA, cocaine, LSD,
marijuana, and a psychedelic mushroom grow found in a residence;
Seizure of more than 100 firearms, including handguns,
assault rifles, and a grenade launcher;
Seizure of five vehicles that were purchased with illicit
proceeds and/or used to facilitate criminal activity;
Seizure of more than $3.6 million in U.S. currency and gold
Seizure of nearly 2,000 Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies,
with an approximate value of more than $20 million;
Confiscation of 15 pill presses, which are used to create
illegal synthetic opioids; and
Seizure of Bitcoin mining devices, computer equipment, and
Amongst those charged federally, include:
Antonio Tirado, 26, and Jeffrey Morales, 32, of the Bronx,
New York, were arrested on June 18, and separately charged by the U.S.
Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York with distribution and
possession with intent to distribute narcotics, including cocaine, LSD (also
known as “acid”), marijuana, and hashish oil.
Additionally, Tirado was charged with possession of a firearm in
furtherance of his drug trafficking offenses.
Following an investigation into a Darknet marketplace vendor using the
moniker “Trapgod,” investigators executed search warrants at homes in two
residential neighborhoods in the Bronx leading to Tirado and Morales.
As alleged in the complaints, during the
execution of the search warrants at the Tirado and Morales residences, agents
seized controlled substances including powder cocaine, marijuana, and LSD, as
well as various precursor powders, liquids, and reagents, and other
narcotics-related paraphernalia including marijuana growing equipment, a home
chemistry lab, scales, and heat sealing packaging materials.
In Tirado’s home, agents recovered a fully
loaded shotgun alongside a narcotics stash.
Investigators in Tirado’s apartment recovered additional evidence of
Darknet narcotics distribution, such as numerous U.S. Postal Service shipping
boxes, already addressed to customers around the United States, which boxes
contained hairbrushes some of which had already been packed with powder cocaine
Jian Qu, 30; Raymond Weng, 24; and Kai Wu, 22, all of
Queens, New York, along with Dimitri Tseperkas, 22, and Cihad Akkaya, 22, of
Middle Island and Port Jefferson, New York, respectively, were each arrested on
June 18, and charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of
New York with participation in a conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000
kilograms of marijuana. Tseperkas and
Akkaya were also charged with firearms offenses relating to the drug
conspiracy. Investigators monitoring
Darknet marketplaces found accounts used by some of the conspirators, leading
agents to execute search warrants at three addresses in residential communities
in Flushing and Mt. Sinai, New York.
From the residences, agents recovered approximately $400,000 in U.S.
currency, 140 kilograms of suspected marijuana and an additional 10 kilograms
of suspected marijuana vape cartridges, 12 kilograms of suspected Xanax pills,
over half a kilogram of suspected ecstasy, four pill presses, mixers, and pill
press parts, over a dozen kilograms of various powders, packaging materials,
While searching the
residence where Akkaya and Tseperkas were found, investigators recovered three
loaded shotguns, including a tactical double-barreled shotgun loaded with 14
shells, and over 50 shotgun shells, as well as significant quantities of
narcotics, packaging materials, and paraphernalia including a money-counting
Review of electronic evidence
recovered from the residences proved the conspirators’ connections to Darknet
marketplaces, use of cryptocurrency, and narcotics distribution schemes.
Ryan Farace, 34, of Reisterstown, Maryland, and Robert
Swain, 34, of Freeland, Maryland, were charged by the U.S Attorney’s Office for
the District of Maryland related to a scheme to manufacture and distribute
alprazolam tablets, which are typically sold under the brand name “Xanax.”
The indictment alleges that Farace
distributed the drugs through sales on the dark web in exchange for Bitcoin,
and that Farace and Swain laundered the drug proceeds through financial transactions
designed to conceal the source and ownership of the illegal funds.
To date, law enforcement has seized various
crypto currency, to include bitcoin, valued at over $22 million at the time of
the seizures, and over $1.5 million in cash, which was seized from Farace’s
residence upon the execution of a search warrant on Jan. 18.
As part of the indictment, the government
seeks the forfeiture of no less than $5.665 million, plus the value of 4,000
Bitcoin believed to be the proceeds of the illegal drug sales, two residences,
and a vehicle used to facilitate the drug distribution.
Nicholas J. Powell, 32, and Michael Gonzalez, 27, former and
current residents of Parma, Ohio, respectively, were charged by the U.S.
Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio with conspiracy to distribute
controlled substances and laundering money using the dark web.
The complaint alleges that Powell used
various monikers on Darknet marketplaces as part of his criminal scheme,
including “TheSource,” “BonnienClyde,” BnC,” “BCPHARMA,” and “Money TS.”
The conspiracy operated on multiple Darknet
marketplaces, including Silk Road 2, AlphaBay, and HANSA.
The conspiracy involved distributing Xanax,
steroids, marijuana and other drugs across the country using these and other
Powell and Gonzalez
would then launder the funds as cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Etherium, and
Komodo through individuals specializing in money laundering on Darknet
At the time of arrest, law
enforcement had already seized approximately $437,000 in cryptocurrencies from
Jose Robert Porras III, 21, and Pasia Vue, 23, both of
Sacramento, were charged with drug distribution, money laundering, and
illegally possessing firearms, in a 16-count indictment returned by a grand
jury in the Eastern District of California. According to the indictment, Porras
and Vue were using the online monikers “Cannabars” and “TheFastPlug,” to
distribute marijuana, Xanax, and methamphetamine on various dark web
marketplaces, including Trade Route, Wall Street Market, and Dream
Porras and Vue then
laundered the Bitcoin proceeds of their drug distribution through the HSI
undercover agent located in New York.
After receiving the Bitcoin from Porras and Vue, the undercover agent
mailed parcels of cash to them in Sacramento. HSI and USPIS agents seized nine
weapons including an AK-47 magazine and ammunition, 30 pounds of marijuana,
$10,000 in U.S. currency, a vehicle, and over 100 bars of Xanax.
Sam Bent, 32, of St. Johnsbury, Vermont (and formerly of
East Burke, Vermont), and his cousin, Djeneba Bent, 26, also of St. Johnsbury
(and formerly East Burke) were charged with conspiracy to distribute LSD, MDMA
(also known as “ecstasy”), cocaine, and marijuana in an indictment returned by
a federal grand jury in the District of Vermont.
The indictment alleges that the conspiracy
involved setting up accounts on dark web marketplaces, establishing online
identities, accepting Bitcoin in exchange for sales over the dark web, and mailing
controlled substances from several different post offices in Northeastern
Vermont and Northwestern New Hampshire in an effort to avoid detection.
The indictment also charges Sam Bent with
four counts of money laundering involving three different exchanges of bitcoin
drug distribution proceeds for U.S. currency.
In Fresno, California, a federal grand jury returned an
11-count indictment on May 17, against Daniel Boyd McMonegal, 35, of San Luis
Obispo and Mariposa, California, charging him with drug distribution and money
laundering in the Eastern District of California.
According to the indictment, McMonegal, using
the online monikers “Sawgrass,” “Ross4Less,” and “ChristmasTree,” distributed
marijuana on various dark web marketplaces, including Dream Market.
McMonegal was also the owner of a marijuana
delivery service in San Luis Obispo called West Coast Organix, which claimed to
be a non-profit medical marijuana cooperative.
McMonegal then laundered the Bitcoin proceeds of his drug distribution
through an undercover agent located in New York.
After receiving the Bitcoin from McMonegal,
the undercover agent mailed parcels of cash to McMonegal in San Luis Obispo and
More than 50 Darknet vendor accounts were identified and
attributed to the real individuals selling illicit goods on Darknet market
sites such as Silk Road, AlphaBay, Hansa, Dream, and others. HSI-New York Field
Division and MLARS coordinated with law enforcement and federal prosecutors to
investigate 65 targets identified by the undercover operation in more than 50 Federal
districts, including: the District of Arizona, the Eastern District of
Arkansas, the Western District of Arkansas, the Central District of California,
the Eastern District of California, the Northern District of California, the
Southern District of California, the District of Colorado, the District of
Connecticut, the Middle District of Florida, the Northern District of Florida,
the Southern District of Florida, the Northern District of Iowa, the District
of Kansas, the District of Maryland, the Eastern District of Michigan, the
District of Minnesota, the Eastern District of North Carolina, the Western
District of North Carolina, the District of New Hampshire, the Northern
District of New York, the Southern District of New York, the Western District of
New York, the District of North Dakota, the Northern District of Ohio, the
Southern District of Ohio, the District of Oregon, the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania, the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the District of South
Carolina, the District of South Dakota, the Eastern District of Texas, the
Northern District of Texas, the Southern District of Texas, the Western
District of Texas, the Eastern District of Virginia, the District of Vermont,
the Eastern District of Washington, and the Western District of
FBI was part of the
investigative team in the Northern District of California.
The investigation is ongoing.